UW Tacoma’s own Dr. Abby Murray was a guest speaker at the TEDxTacoma event Nov. 16, hosted at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s American Lake Conference Center. Murray’s TEDx Talk, titled “Remember the Line: Mantras for Spouses in Times of Transition,” was one of several presentations which discussed the many transitions that are found in life.
The TEDxTacoma’s theme, “Transitions: Bridging the Gap,” focused on several of the struggles found in transitions such as starting a family and the transformation of urban spaces. While many of the speakers and event organizers have military ties, numerous topics — including transitions in the military, businesses, and local government and communities — were covered with an equal balance. Several UW community members, in addition to Murray, were also invited to give their take on the theme of transitions.
Murray — who is the wife of an Army major — focuses her research and work on creative writing and poetry concerning war, veterans and life away from war fronts. She currently works for UWT’s Veterans and Military Resource Center as the writing instructor for the Army War College fellows.
Murray’s presentation spoke to the importance of not losing your voice, especially in times of transitioning through life. She outlined three mantras during her presentation: “My voice belongs here,” “Be where I am” and “These are my strengths.”
“The most important thing to me is identifying my fears,” Murray said in an interview with the Ledger. “My fears as a military spouse relate to my experiences of feeling silence. The way that I have coped with my fears has been to identify my voice and hear my voice. I have done that through meditation, and in meditation you use mantras.”
TEDxTacoma is a community organized event that has been given a free license after going through a careful vetting process from the official TED Conferences organization. One of the goals of TEDxTacoma, as well as a reason for being hosted at JBLM, is to bring civilians and the military closer together.
The Veterans and Military Resource Center provides many opportunities and resources for student-veterans on campus, including peer support groups and financial aid. Retired Army Capt. Rosalynn Johnson, associate director for the Veterans and Military Resource Center and member of the board that organized TEDxTacoma, discussed some of the ways UWT student-veterans experience transitions in their lives once they are out of the military.
“A lot of our veterans start out at a community college,” Johnson said. “They may have been attending classes at community colleges at different bases, and they have some credits and apply as transfer students. The transition is [that] they get out of the military and they’re attending a four-year institution.”
“They are transferring to something that is more civilian than military. A majority of them have families, are married, have children and are not [in] that 18–22-year-old range. Some of them have retired. Once they get here, we are the office here to aid their transition into higher [education].”
Murray plans to continue helping veterans transition through her work in the community with creative writing workshops. Most recently, she has completed a poetry workshop at the Selma Carson Home where she worked with undocumented children ages 12–17. For the past few years, Murray has hosted workshops at JBLM and around the UWT campus for veterans, family members of veterans and the general public. She will resume these workshops at the beginning of 2019.